Last fall: Lacerated spleen. This one: Wounded pride.
No matter where he turns, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith can’t stop taking a beating. The 13 sacks suffered through three contests are the most he’s ever taken over the first three starts of a regular season, passing the 11 takedowns in ’11 and ’14. Over the eight most healthy seasons out of the first 10 in No. 11’s career, he averaged 9.13 sacks taken over his first three starts.
The locals haven’t been kind, either. Smith was dropped seven times in Monday night’s loss up at Green Bay, only catching some fire once the Chiefs went with a no-huddle approach in the second half with the contest out of reach. No. 11 isn’t yet at The Jay Cutler Level on the civic-punching-bag scale. But he’s starting to teeter.
That said, it takes a village when your quarterback habitually finds himself forced to eat turf burgers, and Smith has had help. Or rather, a disturbing lack of it from his offensive line of late.
The Chiefs (1-2) hit Week 4’s visit to Cincinnati (3-0) ranked last in FootballOutsiders.com’s Adjusted Sack Rate, at 11.9 percent (Seattle is 31st with 11.3; Tennessee, 30th at 11.2). Perspective: That’s more than TWICE the league average through the first month of the regular season (5.7 percent). More perspective: Last fall’s infamously leaky pocket checked in with a rate of 9.4 percent, 28th in the loop.
ProFootballReference.com (PFF) ranks the line 23rd as a unit in terms of Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE), a formula that also factors in hits and hurries relative to the number of passing plays. In 2014, they were 25th.
Now some guys — Aaron Rodgers, for example — can work around or wiggle their way out of a collapsing pocket, buy themselves more time to get through a play’s progressions.
Smith? Smith ain’t one of those guys.
As a rule, Big Alex doesn’t like driving with a dirty windshield. PFF tracks NFL signal-callers’ accuracy while “under pressure,” and when you follow how No. 11 has fared over his last three seasons in this department, a pretty clear pattern starts to take shape:
--2015: 46.4 percent while pressured, 22nd out of 30 quarterbacks who’ve taken at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps
--2014: 48.5 percent, 10th out of 27 quarterbacks who’d taken at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps
--2013: 46.1 percent, 17th out of 27 quarterbacks who’d taken at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps
In Smith’s defense, he also ranked among the Top 10 signal-callers when it came to most drops by receivers while throwing under pressure over each of his first two campaigns with the Chiefs. But PFF has yet to chart a “pressured” drop in 2015. Interesting.
Coach Andy Reid, ever the consummate players’ coach and company man, hasn’t just fallen on swords this week — he’s pounced on them, especially when the topic of contention turns to Smith. But the numbers don’t lie, either: If Big Red did a better job of protecting his quarterbackSunday and Monday, he wouldn’t have to spend so much stinking time protecting him over the next 96 hours.